I began my 2007 trip along old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway in Downtown Indianapolis.
Although State Road 37 today goes from south of Fort Wayne all the way to the Ohio River, it originally began in Indianapolis and went south. And while today the road follows I-465 around the east side of town, and then heads south on the Southwestside just west of US 31, it originally began its southbound journey on Meridian Street at Washington Street in Downtown Indianapolis. After about 2 miles it veered right onto Bluff Road.
I didn’t know that when I made this trip. The oldest map I owned showed SR 37 following West Street, which is about a half mile west of Washington Street. So that’s where I began, where West intersects with Washington. (On the map, it’s labeled as Missouri Street in error.)
As usual, Downtown Indianapolis was busy with events, and there wasn’t a place to park so I could take a photo of my starting point. So I took it through my windshield as I drove. I had just crossed Washington Street. The Indiana Government Center parking garage is on the left. The arch beyond the hotel sign and the speed-limit sign is for Victory Field, where Indianapolis’s minor-league baseball team plays.
Shortly down the road, West Street curved to the left, went under I-70, and then curved back. Betting that it hadn’t always been like that, I went back to check for old West Street. Both streets below are signed as West Street. The original alignment, on the right, is buried under I-70.
Here’s where old West Street picks up on the other side of I-70, which is visible in the background beyond the trees.
South of here, West Street curves back into its original alignment, as this photo shows.
South of Downtown at about Southern Avenue, West Street meets and becomes Bluff Road, angling slightly southwesterly. This road is named for its destination: the bluffs of the White River, at a little town called Waverly, about 15 miles away. Even though it’s not State Road 37 anymore, from here it’s still a major road with wide shoulders and highway-style striping.
I was getting thirsty and started looking for a gas station where I could buy a soda. The first gas station I came upon make me think I had stepped back into the 1970s! I wondered at first if it was abandoned, but the pumps had modern gas prices on them ($3.19 per gallon for regular unleaded). Maybe the station was closed because it was Sunday, another old-time practice.
Just check out those 1970s pumps! (As of 2020, the pumps and Bob are gone, and this building is an auto-repair shop.)
Next: a bridge on a stub of old SR 37 in Indianapolis where the old road meets the new.
To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!